Spring 2020

Thursday Thought - 23rd April 2020


This quote from Anne Frank reminds us that giving to others is really a gift to ourselves. It’s important to remember this, not only at the giving times of the year such as Christmas or birthdays, but throughout the year. It’s also important to give to people you may not even know, not only to family and friends. Giving to people, especially to people you don’t know, makes one feel good. Now there is scientific proof that generosity will not only make you happier, but is actually good for your health. Generosity is truly the best gift you can give to yourself. Kingsmead Residents page has been flooded over recent weeks with numerous examples of our communities generosity to others. It has also been heartwarming to see all of the examples of our children being ‘Useful and Kind’ at this time, setting up bookstalls on their driveways to raise money for the NHS, crocheting headbands for the workers wearing masks, adding pictures to the ‘Little book of smiles’ for the ‘Independent Living Scheme’, leaving Easter gifts for their neighbours, opening pop up shops to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice, drawing chalk hearts outside Kingsmead Medical Practice and leaving painted pebbles for people to find on their daily walks. What fantastic community spirit you have all shown during this difficult time.

Mrs RB

Thursday Thought - 16th April 2020


Happiness used to be about having rich relationships, giving back to others, and investing in yourself to ensure you’re always improving as a person. Somewhere along the way, our culture redefined happiness as having the nicest and newest things and spending your money on objects to impress others without any real gain to yourself. We’ve handed our happiness over to the possessions we have and the possessions we want to have. With the recent pandemic life seems to have come full circle. No longer are we focusing on the possessions we want, but instead we are spending time listening, encouraging others, being grateful for what we have already and hoping. I know my credit card is certainly enjoying a well earned break!

Let's wake up grateful for all that we have, and resist the urge to buy useless things that we know we don’t need. Focus more on yourself and others, and not the things they have. Free yourself from your possessions and you’ll experience life through a different lens. Free yourself from the burden of belongings that aren’t important to who we really are.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 13th April 2020

family life in lockdown

Making phone calls last week a parent noted that her children have been getting on remarkably well, better than every before. She put it down to lack of alternatives! It seems many of our children are looking at those around them with new eyes. I read a blog from a parent of a year 6 child and some teenagers that the current lockdown feels like her children have temporarily been returned to her as children, unusually interested in her opinion, work and spending time with her. I have been asking parents and children on calls about this and it seems by and large to be the case for most of us. One I met tells me he and his brother are bucking the trend but, by and large, siblings are finding joy in each other's company and families are reporting quality time with their children, despite the challenges of lockdown.

This contrasts sharply with the report in The Guardian of the UK's largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reporting a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day. A separate helpline for perpetrators of domestic abuse seeking help to change their behaviour received 25% more calls after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. Our page on Safeguarding has some contact details for support. It might be worth remembering that for some in our community, getting out of the house and taking a longer walk with children may be the only way a parent can protect them from harm.

Lockdown and social distancing will be essential for some time yet if the Coronavirus is to be managed effectively. There will be a cost though and the cost will be borne mostly by those already disadvantaged: those with mental health difficulties, those living in situations of domestic violence and the economically vulnerable. One of the things that has most impressed me about Kingsmead over the past sixteen years is the way in which people in what is a more diverse community than first appears can rally and support each other. We see this every Harvest and every time we collect for the Foodbank. I have also seen it in play when relationships break up or people are concerned about children in their street. Kingsmead people have an admirable ability to rally round one another and where necessary report and seek advice.

I hope everyone reading this resonates with the first paragraph of this blog. Look after yourselves and each other; remember you can call me or Mrs R-B during school hours if you need advice or support, whether for yourself or someone you're worried about. I hope to see you all before the end of the Summer, back together and a physical as well as virtual community.

Happy Easter, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 9th April 2020

'Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.'

Life is so unpredictable, some of the best and seemingly worst things that happen in life come unexpectedly. Some things that look bad at first glance can possibly turn out to be a 'present' that you wouldn't have otherwise opened.

As difficult as this time has been for many of us and certainly not a 'present' we would have wished for, it has absolutely made us question what is important in our lives. Hopefully we’ll all feel a new sense of appreciation if and when we do get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this, will stick around for a long time.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 6th April 2020


One thing most people are finding is that we are learning a lot about technology and getting lots of unplanned from training in this, that and the other. I have not yet learned how to link a powerpoint to a video so if you want to share the slides from assembly with your children you'll need to visit our website page and scroll down to Spring!

Assembly-Spring 2020 (2020-04-06 at 01_31 GMT-7).mp4

Celebrating our NHS - envy of the world

The theme of the first virtual assembly was about caring for other people (and ourselves of course) through our wonderful NHS. We humans can often take the things most important to us for granted: our family, friends, education and health service. It can take a crisis to get us to wake up and smell the coffee. This is why I chose that the theme for the inaugural (first) Kingsmead Primary School Virtual Assembly should be the NHS.

As we have learned from other learning in school, from Refugees to Climate Change, when dealing with upsetting subjects, the best thing for children is to be able to think about how they can contribute and help, play their part in wider society. That's why I talked about helping the NHS and staying at home. By participating in being part of a solution, children will be less anxious and fixated on the problem.

Assembly gave a little shout out too to our politicians. They get a lot of stick and I am not averse to sharing with them my democratic right to an opinion! It's worth remembering that our welfare state, which includes pensions for the elderly, care for children who have no parents able to care for them and our NHS, was the work of a country and leaders with the political will to build it. I have listened to many politicians from many parties over the last few years in particular and have found that while a scurrilous few dominate the headlines, the vast majority (as with all people) are hard working, decent folk, wanting to play their part in improving our country. I hope the PM gets better and wish the new leader of the opposition well too, taking up his new job at a time of global crisis.

When I have been abroad or chatting to people from different countries, the two things most envy are the NHS and that in the UK every child has the opportunity of a free education. Two things I and many others have been guilty of taking for granted. Family, friends, health, education. I am feeling strangely proud of Britain as I write today ; our state education, the NHS and free entry to museums and art galleries: we care for ourselves and other people, mind, body and soul.

There is lots of comment at the moment about how we are living through history and, as our elderly relatives and neighbours can tell us about rationing and The War, we will be able to tell children as yet unborn, how we pulled together when the crisis came, cared for one another without and stepped up. Here in school we have played a small part, staying open Monday-Friday right through the holiday for key workers' children and trying to interest and engage children and their families at home. We find that we love the NHS , as much as when it opened in 1948, as much as when it dominated the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Free health care for all is something we want and when push came to shove, we afforded it.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 2nd April 2020

positive thoughts

'One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.'

These anxious times bring unforeseen difficulties but the best of human nature can rise to the challenge. Now might seem an unusual time to talk about being positive, yet staying positive is a core ingredient in the recipe of successful coping in a crisis.

Savour the small moments, strengthen your connections with family and look for the good in others. Although it's been hard at times, working and having two children at home, we are using this time to create some lovely memories. Many board games have been played, cakes baked and consumed and not to mention how much I have learnt about 'dragons' on our daily walks! What positive thoughts will you have from today?

Mrs RB

Wednesday Words - 1st April 2020

no fools

The words I have shared with children today are from the Lost Words, the most beautiful book that I have written about previously and which will be providing the riddle every Wednesday to give children and possibly adults something to think about. I'll put up a poem every Wednesday morning and in the afternoon all will be revealed! I'm linking in Google Classroom too

Monday Message - 30th March 2020

week two - reading, routines and no expectations

In yesterday's Observer, Lucy Mangan has suggested a raft good reads for children in difficult times. She has come up with books that may have additional value while we are confined to barracks for a good while yet. Books dealing with children's lives in altered circumstances, stories that deal with the subject of anxiety, escapism and of course, those funny books which are often the ones that people of all ages in a family can enjoy together are discussed in her short, interesting article where she shares her own perspective, with humour, as a parent at home with her young son. Our Reading Rocks page has morphed into something of a Virtual Library, it includes online reads and the recommended read lists from other pages in Communication, Language and Literacy are of the website.I hope if helps to find it all in one place. Books, be they stories or non-fiction sustain people in times of crisis and will come into their own now, providing you and your children with entertainment, education and stimulate curiosity about this world and other worlds at a time when our physical space is so reduced.

Children are such social animals and consequently any usual hostilities to social media have been suspended - for now at least :-). Thank you so much to Mrs Rocke for setting up Google Hang Outs, chat rooms linked to children's email address in school. This keeps the Google Classrooms free for learning based communication and will be a safer way for busy and stressed parents to let children communicate safely with peers in school. They know that while we don't, we could if needed, see everything they write, not a bad premise when doing anything online. They could even discuss their latest reads!

We held our first virtual leadership team meeting on Friday evening. It was a useful opportunity to really think about the Remote Learning we have set up for you at home. We discussed what is helpful and what might be less so. Mrs Rutter-Brown was able to share her perspective as a parent of children with very different needs and in different phases and Mrs McHugh has two Reception boys at home; they share your pain, and some fun too. My thanks to all our teachers who have really stepped up with this, from Mrs Peacock's online phonics to teachers in Upper Key Stage 2 managing the flow of traffic on Google Classroom. Phase leaders and leaders of English and Mathematics discussed what is the right thing to do to help you all at the moment. My daily headteacher virtual meeting with people from all over the country has also been discussing this. Daily Reading, Writing and Mathematics (the 3 Rs) will be helpful for children keeping their skills sharp. More debate was over 'new content'. Definitely unhelpful, we decided, would to send home bits of the National Curriculum the children should be studying and asking you to get on with it; the DfE (Department for Education) are very clear, the National Curriculum has been suspended. Headteachers thought learning at home should be about revisiting, revising and ensuring skills are kept up and children come back with what the have been taught in school embedded and secure. We also agreed that it is impossible to recreate a classroom at home, for one thing the other 29 children won't be there either to distract or to stimulate, motivate and encourage. I agree that keeping skills sharp should be the mainstay of home learning during a crisis. Teachers here though wondered that as the weeks go on, no new stuff could be less motivating for children and we don't want parents having to go into battle with children over learning at home. Also, many families tell us they are appreciating the opportunity for keeping children amused, entertained and curious. The upshot is we all realised that learning is a lot messier than you might suppose and that one size does not fit all (as it never has). Families with children of different ages will appreciate opportunities to bag it all up with children in cross-age learning. Some will have more time, others less. The internet and devices available in homes are different.

I write a personal blog, not very often (and until this weekend the last one was April 2019). This one was about hopes for the future and a new normal. It did include thoughts on education during school closures and I'll leave you with this.

Our message to our families is clear: the education we are offering for you at home is a gift, given with our love. It is to support you, sustain you and be with you, not to challenge or expect. There will be absolutely no judgement from me on any family, whether they return with a wheelie bin full of projects and a home made hat or whether they have sat it out doing @>*$! all of what we are offering, we will welcome each and every family back without judgement.

I wish you all the very best as you settle into all the many incarnations of what Week 2 of school closure looks like.

Ms S

Thursday Thought - 26th March 2020

rethinking boredom

Children' lives are packed with entertainments: clubs, activities, homework and play dates. It was not always thus and many of us will remember hours of boredom, long summer days having to make our own entertainments. Our parents didn't seem to feel the same pressure to keep us occupied and entertained and I think they may have had a point. Families are together more than they have ever been in my lifetime; we will all settle into a rhythm and find a path. My grandad used to just sing 'What Can I do when you are far away?' if ever we said we were bored and what could we do. My mum said to us and my siblings and I said to ours 'You'll just have to make your own entertainments.' Sometimes a mantra that you don't have to think too hard about may be the best response to bored nippers; we always found using a funny voice helped them see we were not taking pleas for entertainments seriously and it was fruitless to argue.

Enjoy the weather, Ms S :-)

Wednesday Words - 25th March 2020

routines and nature

One thing we know about children's well-being is that relentless routines can provide comfort and security. Something I know from my reading about human psychology is that children and adults actually don't think differently at all; it's just that we adults have a lot more experience to base our thinking on. This might be why children believe in fairies, witches and Greek Gods (a fact which emerged in assembly about the Equality Act and respecting religions last week - hilarious!) and adults believe myths and rumours doing the rounds in the less reputable end of the tabloid and social media.

I'm sure you can appreciate how very difficult this week has been for me and staff in school. One thing that has kept me positive and thinking more deeply has been setting up a relentless routine for children. And I have got to wondering if it might help the older people at home during school closures too. We aim to provide you with weekly relentless routines (subject to availability!). There is no expectation of you and no one will be tested afterwards. Our routines are there for you to help children and their adults stay connected to their school and offer some structure to the week. The Remote Learning area of the website requires no log on (something which would be an instant stress-reducer for me) and is being updated and added to. Use as you wish; I hope it helps some people and it will help my sanity to have a weekly structure.

For those keeping up with children's messages on Google Classroom, their Wednesday word was Dandelion. It is interesting that North of the border in Scotland, a man took it upon himself to buy The Lost Words for every primary school. In England, when Mr Gove took over as Education Minister, we were given a wonderful if difficult to decipher King James Bible complete with original sixteenth century spelling and English. Unlike some places I have seen it, this doesn't live in my office, nor is it a doorstop. It's part of our library and I have used at Christmas and the language is beautiful for older children. But I know which one has been more useful this week. The one about nature. Nature is out there, you can take a daily walk and the weather is glorious. Enjoy. Enjoyment is something we all might have to search for in the coming months, it will knock less often at the door and we may need to seek it out for ourselves. Mother nature has it in abundance for people of all incomes, religions (or none) nationalities and sexes so do try to enjoy it!

Ms S :-)

Monday Message - 23rd March 2020

Your useful and kindness has never been more appreciated

I apologise for the lateness of this Monday message which I will, in future, aim to have online before lunch. We arrived in school today to find we had no internet, telephones or access to our information management system. Being pretty much isolated from the outside world added an additional pressure on staff working here today.

Thank you first to all the parents and carers who have decided that only when it is absolutely unavoidable, will they book childcare in school. We must balance minimising staff and pupils in school alongside social distancing. This means that the fewer children, the better they can be cared for by fewer staff in one room. This also enables additional deep cleaning of other areas so over time we can make the premises as coronavirus free as possible. However, with cleaning staff mostly self-isolating, opportunities for essential cleaning are more limited. We are very grateful that only the children of key workers with no alternative and the most vulnerable are in school.

Thank you to those parents I have spoken to or who have emailed. It is natural that people were anxious and upset last week, contemplating the enormous difficulty of working at home with nippers in the vicinity. As a younger teacher I remember working with a nipper in the vicinity when planning and marking at home and I empathise completely. It can be hideous. I understand that people were sending emails in a heightened state of anxiety and I am so very grateful and humbled by the good character of anyone who might have seemed very angry and upset with us last week but in fact was as anxious and frightened as we all have been. Every one, by email or telephone calls, has understood that there has been no attempt to be awkward or difficult and have been so very, very kind and supportive today. When push came to shove our Kingsmead community of staff, children, parents, carers and governors have stepped up and we are working in true partnership.

In assembly last Friday afternoon, I spoke to children about how they can be useful and kind and contribute to us holding together in such times as these. Only children are going to become such fantastic imagineers, even better at sustaining their interest in world and in their own imaginations. Siblings have the opportunity to become fantastic diplomats: older ones playing games and reading with younger ones and younger ones giving the older ones space when they need it. They will become better at sharing and taking account of other people. All will become better at noticing how their parents and carers are feeling and as well as giving hugs and not having strops, perhaps doing a bit extra round the house. It was not easy for those children in school today. We are starting with 2m apart before hand washing. Siblings are being encouraged to stay close but we are finding that it really is difficult to keep children so far apart. Therefore at lunch, all but siblings are apart as hand contamination is a big spreader, but for other activities like making a den at lunch, we're watching but allowing children to play together. We must watch that hyper vigilance doesn't cause more harm than good and balance the risks So it's hyper vigilance when eating and before coming in and then being as normal as possible.

Please read emails from the office, keep up with the website (some new resources for English as Additional Language and a link to an online library for children are in English @ Home and the Vale Royal School Sport Partnership are providing daily activities which I am sharing via Be Active @ Home.

As with all days really, it could have been better, could have been worse. But when push came to shove Team Kingsmead and all its players were real team players. When all this is over, and it will be, we will be able to look back and think how we each did our bit and helped out. And we will be a better and stronger, more useful and kind school for it. Notwithstanding that we could all do without it.

My very best to each and every one of you,

Thursday 19th March 2020

caring for ourselves and other people in the last days and while school is closed

In the absence of information from central government, we have been making plans not knowing whether these will be superseded by events. We have really appreciated the kindness and consideration of our families who have been even usefuller and kinder than usual.

I have been approached by some very anxious employees of key public services this morning and lots of you have filled in the Google Form (I have to say a lot more speedily than the annual child data sheets - remember this come September as we'll be timing you!). There is a lot more information elsewhere on the website where regular updates will be posted. This Blog is a bit more philosophical, no less important in times of crisis.

Ever mindful of the 'Rule of Unforeseen Consequences', as I type the Internet is suspiciously slow. Therefore our admin team have been working like Billio to get some paper packs of Maths and English learning for every child. This will keep computers free for folk working from home and be easier on the broadband. Every little helps I guess. These will be available for collection for tomorrow and if anyone is self isolating and can't arrange collection, please email the office and someone will drop off at your door.

I have been in touch with Edsential, and we will be able to provide children entitled to Free School Meals (for who we receive pupil premium) a free picnic bag daily. They will be able to be collected from school and where families have to self isolate, we can drop off.

While I needed to think really hard about a story this morning in assembly it was also good to keep it calm and keep it routine. We revisited my favourite act of parliament (yes, sad I am, but I have one). If your child was in today I wonder if they can remember what it is? We thought about equality and protected characteristics under the law. We then came to the 'F' word (a good vehicle it seems for attention mustering!). We considered that while people who are the round side of the middle line are not a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, it is no less of a nasty pasty thing to name call someone for their size than for their religion, sex, gender, ethnicity, age or disability. We thought that people being ridiculed for anything personal do not, generally, appreciate the joke. We wondered how, with so many off school, we might impart the fact that teachers will be treating the unkind use of the 'F' word as we would other discriminatory language that makes anyone feel like an outsider. Children know that unlike other spats and arguments, when people use discriminatory language that is not useful or kind, they should stand with the victim, tell the perpetrator not to be so unkind and to tell an adult.

We have also been thinking of some of our colleagues not directly employed by school, many sole traders and small businesses. The Literacy Company, First For Maths and Extratime Coaching must be ever so worried about their businesses, most of which is coming into schools where they paid by the yard. Despite this, many are providing resources for families at home which we're posting on our Remote Learning pages which are being updated regularly. We are supporting contracts for cleaning and catering and thinking how we can help all our partners during the current crisis, out of common decency and because they have provided a good service and we will need them once the crisis is over. As John Donne said, 'No man is an island.'

It was a real challenge finding an appropriate read for Assembly today. Many children were absent and despite our wonderful staff's efforts to keep it calm and keep it routine, the atmosphere was different. Mrs R-B laughed as I was having difficulty and lacking inspiration or recommendation was mooching through my office children's books. She is right when she says there really is a book there for any circumstance. I have read Fredrick by Leo Lionni before; like many in my book collection it can be read on many levels. A real corker for a large family bedtime story.

You can hear it aloud online. For a philosophical discussion click the link. The book deals with the importance of imagination and a creative response to our situation. In the bible it says 'Man cannot live by bread alone', and this is never truer than in times of crisis.

Ms S :-)

Wednesday 18th March 2020

children's best interests in scary times

I am writing this after the PM's announcement on school closures; it will become clearer over the next few days and week I expect and I will keep you all posted.

Many of us were surprised to see Mrs Whitham in school today; Mrs W is well beyond Usual Retirement Age but she is a trooper and understands children pretty well: she understands that children need positive stops and starts to things. So, while she will be self-isolating from today, she came in, quickly organised a couple of in house concerts where Year 3 were able to share their recorder playing with other children and orchestra played a farewell concert. The order of things was maintained which is very good for children's mental health and wellbeing. We do have a small number of other staff with underlying health conditions who have been told by their doctors not to be in. I would like to thank colleagues for stepping up and filling the void so quickly and also to Connex, the supply agency, who have been trying their very best to maintain staffing levels at this difficult time. We had secured staffing levels for Monday before the decision was announced to shut schools and I can't thank people enough.

As we reflected in Big Sing with years 3-6 today, the measure of our character and the nature of society is how we behave in times of crisis. When we pull together, support the more vulnerable and share, we are stronger. There will be plans coming into place for more vulnerable children and the children of key workers including health care professionals. I will update you as soon as I know more.

Children at Home

Once initial euphoria at an extra long Easter holiday has subsided, children are likely to find the isolation ahead frightening and worrying. However much we try to shield them, they sense adults' worry and anxiety and are not stupid. Our children are as frightened as we are. I know how upset I am, having missed a trip to my daughter London due to norovirus, now to be contemplating no access to seeing her this weekend. Our children can hear what's going on around them and feel the constant tension we are feeling. When children are afraid they will likely play up more and you can expect more tantrums and tears. What they will need as much if not more than boundaries is nurture and love. Better a bedtime story and a cuddle than forcing them to read to you over the next few days as we all settle into a very different routine for a while.

We will look after all your children especially carefully over the next two days. There is a new section in Curriculum for Remote Learning but I will be blogging about this later in the week. Absolutely no pressure at all is intended, just our love, best wishes and support.

Ms S :-)

Monday 16th March 2020

coronavirus and community

The coronavirus outbreak in the UK, Europe and across the world is new for us all. We are receiving a number of emails and other communication from families about our response to the current situation. Thank you, as these are interesting and challenging and are helpful in our thinking. None of us are experienced in this sort of thing and at such times we rely on the medical experts, mathematical modellers and data analysts, working round the clock to provide government departments like the Department of Education with advice.

The latest advice is that if a child is being self-isolated at home with a child, the whole family should self-isolate. Children may return to school after fourteen days from the onset of symptoms.

We are following the most recent official guidance; the latest I received was from phoning the Department of Education Coronavirus helpline on Friday afternoon and looking at the NHS website today. We use internet links to Public Health England and CWAC to ensure that the information we are sharing and actions we are taking are the most up to date. Quite rightly, we must take and act on advice from official channels and not reports in the general press or media where there has been a raft of information, some of it more reliable than others. Our professional associations the NAHT, NEU and NASUWT are also communicating with DfE and PHE and keeping their members updated.

At the headteacher conference last week, headteachers were briefed re coronavirus and our Director of Education, David McNaught, cautioned following the advice from health services and not acting unilaterally. At times of crisis, it is important that communities (countries and the international community too) take an evidence informed and coordinated approach. That expertise and evidence has led to different approaches in different countries is causing some anxiety (hyped up by social and other media) is a shame but understandable. What I do respect is that our public health experts are offering their advice in good faith and with best intentions.

It was lovely to hear about the Kingsmead Residents Facebook group set up on Kingsmead for the community to help those self-isolating and vulnerable. Who'd have thought? I am celebrating something on social media. Strange times indeed, and don't hold your breath for a repeat! Mrs Rutter-Brown shared this in assembly and children reflected on how we can be useful and kind to one another, asking after family members who are unwell and wishing a speedy recovery rather than ostracising people or being unkind. Our families have been brilliant so far; some are keeping all children off although this is not the official advice yet, everyone is keeping children off if they're under the weather so no one is arriving in school presenting as unwell. Dr Fulton has been giving more hand-washing workshops in school today and this is especially appreciated as health professionals are under even greater strain than most of us.

No crisis, however serious, should compromise humanity and common decency. I have heard reports of children coughing on each other 'for fun' and being unkind and ostracising people who have a relative who is unwell. Not here. We are useful and kind. Unlimited.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Friday 13th March 2020

Friday review and the white heat of technology

I wonder if anyone reading this is old enough to remember Harold Wilson?!

Well, it is said that crisis can be the mother of invention and tonight launched the first Virtual Story from Kingsmead Primary School.

The Guardian celebrated 50 years of John Burningham - he's written some absolute classics. John Burningham books bought for children one generation will be equally loved by grandchildren the next.

What makes a great children's book?

Courtney is a wonderful family read as there's something to be had for all ages and it can be read on so many levels. There is an enchanting story about a dog for younger readers. There is humour and philosophy to thought about for older readers:

  • What does it mean to be a 'pedigree'? (a concept which can sadly be apportioned in our thinking about other people as well as pets)

  • Was Courntey a pet?

  • Did the family own him?

  • Can you 'own' an animal?

The book is an intriguing interplay of deceptively simple writing and illustration. I hope those listening tonight enjoyed the story. The sounds was, I am told, fine but the picture a bit fuzzy. Which is no bad thing for the older presenter and my computer at home is rather long in the tooth too, so it can be let off.

Thank you to the lovely parent who wrote in with words of support for our fantastic Site Manager, Mr Jones, who she witnessed being subject to shouting and swearing earlier in the week. As she put so well, it wasn't nice for anyone witnessing this and Mr Jones was only doing his job, trying to keep the children safe in the morning, and most parents really appreciate his efforts. A box of chocolates appeared in the afternoon for Stuart so thank you whoever you are; the chocolates were appreciated and even more so your support, on a difficult day following a weekend when Mr Jones' did an unrequested Sunday shift disinfecting surfaces before children came back on Monday. As most families know, the road outside the school gate is not a public highway, it is a piece of unadopted road, proper owner not pinned down. Hence our being one of very few schools in England not to have yellow zig-zags. Sometimes rather than persist with unfruitful moaning and misery, it's best to just get on and do what is actually in our gift: the KFA gift of parking notices and Mr Jones' gift of cones!

By the way, for anyone wondering why I have not been waxing lyrical about the wonderful Arts trip to Liverpool years 3 and 4 went on the other week, you'll need to wait for the Easter newsletter. However, if anyone fancies a day out in Liverpool, the Walker has a proper world class art collection and I have put the Art Trail for 2020 on our Community Page (under the National Museums Merseyside is a small icon which gets bigger and more printable if you click it). One thing I will say here is a big thank you to the adult helpers who came along. I think they all found the trail helpful, not only with the pictures it detailed but in thinking and discussing with children a whole raft of pictures. I learned something new about Waterhouse's Echo and Narcissus, something rather weird and just a bit gruesome! I've been looking at this painting since I was around three years old so to find something new, growing our of Narcissus' ankle some fifty two years later with your children was an absolute treat! It reminded me how when we teach others, we in fact learn more and more deeply ourselves, a theme Mrs Rutter-Brown will be expanding on in her contribution to the Easter newsletter.

Happy weekend, Ms S :-)

Tuesday 10th March 2020

PHSE, relationships and sex education

It was lovely to welcome the nine parents who attended our PHSE Curriculum twilight session tonight. While the uptake might be thought small (over half the 95 people who responded to our recent consultation said they'd have found such event useful), it did mean we could have some really insightful and very interesting conversations. The session provided an opportunity to listen to one another's views and better understand the values, of different families along with the legal framework in which schools operate. I think that we understand each other much better from discussions at the meeting and it is from understanding that genuine respect and appreciation for one another can grow.

I understand that while I have yet to have met anyone who doesn't welcome the Equality Act 2020, many families wonder why we need to teach about some of things implicit in the Act to primary age children. LGBT relationships being the main case in point. While we do not promote particular relationships any more than particular beliefs or religions, I do believe we have a duty to represent the diversity of the human family in modern Britain, people our children may meet, study or work alongside and develop friendships.

Part of the curriculum is taught through PHSE or RSE lessons, e.g. different families, substance use, traffic safety and safety in the home. This might be through a book, such as one of the No Outsiders picture books. Most PHSE will be taught through assemblies, discussions in circle time, some in response to events in school or the news and just how we discuss things with children. Through PHSE we ensure the ethos and vision of our school: to care for ourselves, other people and our environment and to be useful and kind and ready to learn run through your children's curriculum and lived experience in school as they do through this website.

You can see and read many of the books we use in the No Outsiders library in the entrance hall. Feel free to drop in and have a browse, I know some parents and carers have found birthday and Christmas present inspiration in that area of the corridor.

Thank you so much to Mrs Hammond who prepared a raft of resources, including an interesting presentation, shared the books from the No Outsiders programme and more specific material on sex education. I won't repeat all the detail here as we will put the handouts and materials from the session in the Health and Wellbeing area of our Curriculum pages. We have agreed some more individual follow-up meetings where particular issues can be discussed with families. Thank you to the staff who stayed to run a creche (we let them go early and so apologies to the folk who did bring their child along just after they'd gone!). And another upside of a small turnout is that alongside the insightful conversations with those there, Mrs Hammond and I can reasonably assume that the overwhelming majority of families are happy with the curriculum we provide and content with any changes we're required to make in September.

Happy Tuesday, Ms S :-)

Friday 28th February 2020

the law of UNFORESEEN consequences

Often we can find unintended consequences from our best intentions. Teachers and adults in school shouting at children, something commonplace when I was in school, is now very rare indeed (here or in any school I visit). This has made schools kinder and better for children's well-being as well as their ability to take a risk and learn more effectively. An unintended consequence of quieter, kinder schools is that children might become far less resilient when adults gently challenge or just want to discuss something that happened. When I was a nipper it took the threat of the cane or going to see the headmaster, (a very tall thin, grey gentleman with sunken eyes, generally wearing a cap and gown (and who NEVER EVER talked to a child other than shout or threaten them with Dire Punishment) to worry me. Nowadays children might be anxious of coming to discuss something with a teacher or (even worse) their headteacher, however usefully, kindly and kindly we ask them.

Thankfully around 95% of my interactions with children are 100% positive. We chat about the buds coming out in Spring, appalling weather, interesting things like dead animals discovered or what new insects observed might be. Some pop in to see me for support, like Orlaith and Saishri; our Junior Safety Officers are keen to share their ideas for keeping children safe on the website, in assemblies and on displays and I am becoming a better administrative assistant in this department ;-). And some come for advice or help with problems.

Yesterday, three girls came for a chat at the end of lunch. Someone they want to play with doesn't want to play with them. My 'System 1' reaction (see below 31st January if curious about what 'System 1' is) was to help these lovely girls, to solve their problem, go in and make it right by reminding their classmate of our rule to be useful and kind and ready to learn, that we care for other people and have a responsibility to let everyone join in. Thanks to my own recent reading, I am on the look out for System 1 barging in, so engaged System 2 before action! System 2 told me that while this might solve the children's immediate upset, it would also teach them that an adult can use their grown up authority to solve each and every little problem that comes along. This might lead to a sense of learned helplessness, a lack of agency. Also, while it might have 'made' the other girl play with them next playtime this was unlikely to last and may leave a residual feeling of resentment. So we discussed the Maths: how many people have been a bit mean and left you out? 1. How many are here taking care of each other? 3 - happy days! We wondered if having good games together might make playtimes happier, the other person might see and maybe want to join in too. This is how I discuss most playtime incidents these days. I don't pass agency back to the children to save my time or pass the buck (proper conversations take far longer than a quick 'play nicely' instruction to a person being complained about).

There are a few occasions when we do need to step in as adults and get people from both parties together, one being when there has been any physical aggression. And we don't discuss anything other than the most serious playtime incidents in lesson time. Why should all the children not involved have to wait for their learning to start while teachers listen to the minority about a dispute at playtime? Our behaviour policy is 'first attention for best effort' which is first, notice and respond to the majority doing the right thing and crack on with learning and teaching. Therefore disputes about football, for example, will be discussed the next playtime which may be the following school day.

ABC and now D - more serious incidents managed usefully and kindly with hope

Physical aggression is serious and outside typical behaviour for children of primary school age. It always results in an ABC(D) record, a written account of the incident. A is for Antecedent (what happened before); we can't consider this without talking with more children than the one who has shown aggression. A child who has hurt someone is responsible for their actions - always - but we might explore how what happened before might have been usefuller, kinder and how others might have helped them manage their anger, not lash out and avoid being in trouble. When someone is rightly in trouble this can be an unintended consequence of how others have behaved which is worth exploring if we want happier times. Behaviour is then recorded followed by the Consequence. Note the language: we avoid terms like 'reward', 'sanction' or 'punishment' as 'consequence' puts the responsibility firmly with the child so is a more useful term for developing a sense of agency over what happens in life. Consequences include people who felt proud of themselves for trying to help, other people being hurt or sad, the perpetrator feeling ashamed or sorry as well as the inevitable missing of play to plan how to make amends and restore harmony. We have added a D to the ABC - the desired alternative outcome which may be what the individual might do themselves as well as things peers can do to help deescalate rather than fuel anger on the playground. The D is great as it finishes the conversation on all the children's best selves and as children remember more the end of conversations than the middle, it is important to end on the best of their little characters so they will remember and use this time. There's a lot of psychology in an ABC!

Today in an ABCD discussion, four children were thanked for being helpful and two emerged with Humanitarian certificates and a place on the Peacekeepers display for helping calm someone, elicit an apology and prevent retaliation. One stayed on to finish the ABCD as, whatever your reason, hitting is hitting and we don't tolerate it. The rest went off happily and proud of themselves with a front of snack queue pass for helping me with my inquiries!

How might you help your child if they are worried about discussing a playtime event? Perhaps this was something they'd just witnessed but we need their help to sort it out. In an email from a parent of a worried child today, they'd done exactly the right thing - told their child to just come along and tell the truth. I hope this blog is helpful if your child were to come home worried about a conversation to be had the following day: we talk to people to find out what happened so we can have happier playtimes in future; just tell the truth, calmly and politely, and accept there may be consequences which might be recognition for doing the right thing, help knowing how to be usefuller and kinder if it happened again, or help in restoring the situation and making amends).

I have had a few occasions, another one yesterday, when I have had quite a lengthy playtime discussion with a group or individual about playtime 'argy bargy'. The children have spontaneously said 'thank you' as they go off for the rest of the day. As well as making me and Mrs Rutter-Brown chuckle, it tells us we have been useful and kind and warm relationships are intact.

Happy Weekend, Ms S

Thursday 27th February 2020

early language - key to thriving in school (and life)

It is well documented that children are arriving in school with typically poorer language and communication skills that we might have expected some years ago. Reasons are varied and for sure, the demands on families are different from even ten years ago. However, the disadvantage gap in children's language is increasingly evident and impacts on their future success in school well before the children join us. At 3 years of age there is a 3 million word gap between the number of words the most advantaged children will have heard compared to the least advantaged. A study in the United States looked at children's understanding of language; There is a short video, (under 2 minutes) explains why it is so important for babies, to be spoken to and to hear language before they are speaking for themselves. As children get older, this need does not reduce; parents who use language that children don't yet fully grasp help introduce new things and ideas to their children, illuminating their meaning and developing their child's vocabulary. Understanding of language and vocabulary underpins children's achievement in all subjects and, most importantly of all, their ability to enjoy their learning, to thrive and be interested in their world and other people.

More adults than ever are members of book clubs and books are great places to start for conversation and language development for older children. Northwich Library have some special events for World Books Day which comes up next week. These are on our Community Page and Reading Rocks blog.

Hungry Little Minds is a Department of Education campaign aimed at developing early language. Interestingly you are given more training to be a ticket collector than to be a parent. The website has lots of fun activities you can do with your children. Please share with your friends and family with pre-school age children.

While we invest in supporting early language development in Reception and beyond, it would be even better for every child if they entered school with language typical for their age.

Monday 24th February 2020

valentine's day - love in its fullest sense

Welcome back after what I hope was a lovely time with your children. Back on Valentines Day when we broke up, we were thinking of love more widely, including the love of nature and planet Earth. Children made some love messages for Planet Earth which we have attached to Gaia (the Roman Goddess of the Earth) in the hall. A lovely work of art by Art Club is becoming a living work as we add more to her.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, I spent time recently with my oldest friend who worked as a nurse including in street hospitals in India and Gaza before training to be a clinical psychologist. She is very wise and going back to our sixth form days we have always enjoyed long conversations about books, philosophy, human nature and religion. Happily this trip was no exception. This time, given the time of year, conversation turned to Love. My friend talked about the five ways humans give and receive love. We talked of love and relationships in their broadest sense: not only as romantic partners but as parents, siblings and friends. And how we may not always notice when someone is showing us they love us, and how we may not always be showing those we love most that we do. The five ways? Here they are:

  1. Acts of Service - parents are doing this all the time for their children and children too can show their love by little acts of service to those around them. When a child does something kind and helpful they are showing love and when we notice they will learn to notice more the acts of service we do for them. The importance of a sense of belonging cannot be overstated for a person's well being and mental health. If we only take and are not given opportunities to give back (reciprocity) we never feel we truly belong. A note of caution though (from another book I'm reading) - we are much better at noticing our acts of service to others than when they give a service to us!

  2. Affirmation - Important for us all is to have our best efforts noticed and valued. We used part of our INSET today to revisit our behaviour policy and the importance of language in promoting pro-social behaviour. We talked about reward and recognition being for children's very best efforts and first attention for best conduct. This means we shouldn't be praising for anything other than a really good effort, mindful that the putting in of effort is equal in that people of all aptitudes can do it, the products or outcomes may differ but it's the effort and not the product that earns the praise. First attention for best conduct means that rather than dealing first with the poor behaviour of one child, staff first notice and affirm all those doing the right thing (and then deal with the poor behaviour if the child hasn't taken the hint). We do not accept or ignore any anti-social behaviour, but we are mindful of the importance of finishing any conversation which challenges a child's conduct with what is going to be different in future. To end on a discussion about the child's best self is more affirming than ending on the impact their actions had on others (covered earlier in the conversation ;-). All children and even more so those who have had a more difficult start in life, benefit from affirming relationships where they feel loved and valued. We may be disappointed in their behaviour but not them. It's a subtle difference but a big one. We remind children of their good selves, the best of themselves that we have noticed in the past and so appeal to their very best nature. Not only affirming but in the long run, after endless repetition and consistency, effective too.

  3. Physical Touch - Which is why we're not a 'no touch' school. When your child falls over they may need a cuddle. For some, an affirming hand on the shoulder will reduce anxiety and support them in staying on task. Physical touch is important for people of all ages and for children especially. We see it in the animal kingdom and this very much reminds me of our close kinship with our fellow mammals. Most children will be more touchy than adults; as long as their touch is useful and kind and respectful, this is healthy and necessary.

  4. Quality Time - This is the time when we are truly invested in another person, showing we love and regard them by engaging thoughtfully and playfully, without judgement, listening attentively and so responding appropriately. The best teachers call this assessment for learning! When your children get old and fly the nest, this is what they recall of childhood. Things they were bought do not get much of a mention.

  5. Presence - Similar to quality time but also about the quantity of time you are with someone. I read recently how children can be more affected by adult screen time than their own. I know when I am texting or communicating virtually with friends, I am not present with the people I am physically with. This may be part of why social media and communicating with so many people in cyberspace has increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. Presence is a bit like mindfulness I guess; being attuned to the moment in time.

So while we can never love children in the same way as their parents and families love them, we can be a loving school. I've always been rather ambivalent about Valentine's Day, so it was nice this year to see it through new eyes, courtesy of conversation, quality time and presence with a much loved friend of getting on for forty years!

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Monday 10th February 2020

hidden benefits of kindness and a playful mindset

Reading The Observer a week last Sunday, my attention was drawn to an article in the magazine: Want your kids to be successful? Then teach them to be kind. I recommend it to anyone interested in their own child's mental health, developing character and well-being and anyone wanting a useful and kind society more broadly.

'If you survey parents about what they want for their children, more than 90% say that one of their top priorities is for their kids be caring. This makes sense: kindness and concern for others are held as virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask what their parents want for them, 81% say their parents value their child's achievement and happiness over caring.'

And with we Homo Sapiens being such a social species, living in large groups, we find that when we are useful and kind to others we find benefits to us as individuals too.

'Children who help get better grades than the ones who don't.'

I am a very fortunate headteacher; most of the time I work among the usefullest and kindest children and adults. After playtime duty last Friday and a game of Manhunt, I had a delegation of boys knock on at lunch to see if I wanted to come out to play. I got some much needed cardio vascular and, among the mad dash for base, we considered happy play-times. Manhunt is great; with more than one person 'on' it is just as much fun being on as not. We thought about how it's OK to be on but, if someone is arguing about it and clearly doesn't think they were tagged, and there are plenty of people on already, we can choose to just 'sack it off' as a 'first world problem' (thanks George for that one - priceless!) and get on with the game. If someone were always arguing or refusing to be on we thought how they can't possibly enjoy the game as much as the rest of us (not least because we might be less inclined to chase them!).

Play time is packed full of opportunities to learn playfully and there is a whole curriculum (mostly taught by their play mates and not to be found in any lesson plan) that children learn in unstructured times of the day. Earlier in the week, talking to some boys, we'd discussed play-time adjustments children can make to be useful and kind peers. Calming down rather than winding up their quicker tempered classmates and playing in a way that includes everyone and where everyone feels welcome makes play-time happier for everyone. By taking time to discuss and have a proper conversation, we learned that while there hadn't really been 'bullying' behaviour, perhaps it might be kinder, next time, to think about how our play can keep us all smiling and not lead to anyone becoming sad or angry. Conversation with young people is a lot more time consuming than telling them but I find it is always worth the time, always interesting and always reveals the best of children's characters and intentions. I also suspect it has more effect.

Thank you children of Kingsmead for a lovely week of kindness and uplifting surprises. And what a lovely end to the week!

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Saturday 1st February 2020


Children in years 2 and 4 from schools in the Northwich Education Partnership have made beautiful work for the Northwich Art Trail which opened today. This year's theme, Standing Tall, links to the NEP priority in 2019 where schools were trained by Andrew Moffat on the No Outsiders programme to teach the Equality Act 2010.

We have linked the idea of Standing Tall to our Adrift project. In year 2 children were inspired by the work of artists Ai Weiwei (his flag for Human Rights is flying outside school) and Antony Gormley. Ai's footprint symbolises us all, the 'everyman' in the same way Gormley's body casts are without individual features and so are more representative of humanity and the human condition. Year 2's leg casts are decorated with ideas discussed in this year's unit on India, including respecting diversity and Gandhi's words 'Be the change you want to see.'

Year 4 made their work inspired by the book Wisp, part of the Adrift project, with ideas of home and what it means to different people shared in a canvas and 3D work combining text, images and 3D.

Our work is on display in Northwich Library through February which we're delighted about. Families can visit the library, take a book out, join and see our work in a fantastic public space. After this it will move to school before being exhibited in Weaver Hall this Summer.

Happy weekend, Ms S :-)

Friday 31st January 2020

thinking - how we might become more accurate, and happier with it

Much of what I use in my work, I have learned by reading books not written for teachers or about schools. Daniel Kahneman's book (I'm a slow reader so I'll be on it a while) is full of information and ideas that are helping me improve my teaching and I have been talking about it with a couple of older children I teach.

System 1 and System 2 thinking

Basically, we have two ways of thinking. System 1 is our intuitive thinking, based on past experience, trial and error. Iona described it much better than I can - 'thinking without thinking' is how she put it. System 1 is useful, akin to intuition or a hunch: we use it to assess someone's mood and adjust how we then interact with them, we use it to leap out of the way to avoid danger; System 1 keeps us out of harm's way.

On the downside it's also about jumping to conclusions and answering different questions to the one asked, something we all, and children and politicians especially, do a lot of!

System 2 by contrast is the thinking that analyses, evaluates and reasons. System 2 works things out systematically and is less prone to error. Bethany described it today as 'thinking before you actually do it.' and she is bang on. Most learning and thinking is best done by System 2 but we humans are often either lazy, tired or under pressure and so we let System 1 butt in and save us some effort. But this makes us much more prone to error. This is why, when your child is reading to you at home they might read 'feasted' instead of 'feasting'; they used System 2 to read the first bit of the word and then System 1 butted in with a guess based on experience.

Going over a Maths question this week, Mrs Ghader was helping children with a problem about whether a field was big enough for 10 sheep. The field was made of two rectangles in an L shape. Some measurements of sides of the field had been given to show the perimeter. When children let System 1 butt in, they supposed it must be a perimeter question rather than what it was: an area one requiring them to calculate the area of the field. This is why the RUCSAC approach to problems - Read, Understand, Choose, Solve, Answer, Check can be so helpful in slowing down children's answering of mathematical (and other) problems and so increasing their accuracy.

It is why someone might be bumped into and retaliate, before they have reasoned that that the bump was accidental, that physical aggression is wrong, not accepted and they will be in trouble.

Our human minds can also be very suggestible. When asked 'Is Jane kind?' different thoughts about of Jane come to mind than if you were asked 'Is Jane unkind?' This is why open questions give more accurate information than ones that lead. It is also why more positive discussions lead to happier, more contented individuals with a positive outlook on life. Asking a child if they were bullied or upset today will give very different answers to asking them if they had a happy playtime with friends. 'Who did you play with today?' is very likely to result in different responses to 'Were you left out today?' The psychologist Daniel Gilbert (who write Stumbling on Happiness) talks about suggestibility. Children learn what they live; positive, happy conversations lead to more positive and happy people. People who expect others to be mostly kind and useful, will be more tolerant, have happier lives and better relationships than those who are suspicious and on the look out for offence.

Happy weekend, Ms S :-)

Monday 27th January 2020

holocaust memorial day

This year, German and Jewish leaders, 200 holocaust survivors and others have met at Auschwitz to mark the seventy five years since the Soviet Army liberated the camp. 'Lest we forget' is something we think of on 11th November when we remember the cost of war to service men and women. History is such an important subject because if we don't know about the past we can't learn from it and run the risk of repeating past mistakes and injustices. The holocaust is a very difficult subject for young children so assemblies were split into Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

How we shared a difficult subject with our young children

The youngest children heard only briefly about the day and why I had lit a candle. We considered the the artwork in the entrance hall, People Like Us, made to commemorate our ten years since opening back in 2014. The title, words, languages, symbols and images represent our commitment to there being no outsiders at Kingsmead and that kindness and respect, joining in and participating are for people of all races, religions, lifestyles, sexes, ages and abilities. We then remembered my most favourite law of our land, something which makes me proud of Britain - the Equality Act 2010. This enshrines in law protection for minority groups and reminds me of the wise words of philosopher, Karl Popper:

'The true hallmark of a democracy is not the frequency with which it holds elections, but the manner in which it protects its minorities.'

Older children in Years 3-6 learned about two inspirational women from the time of the holocaust. The older ones and some year 3/4 children had heard of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who, with her family, hid for two years in a tiny annex in Amsterdam until they were betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. The other young woman, Miep Gies, was a Christian. She and her husband had left Vienna after the first world war as refugees, moving to Holland where there was more food. Miep worked for Otto Frank and when the Nazis invaded, was one of a small number of brave individuals who risked their lives to get food and supplies to those in hiding in the annex behind Otto's factory. Miep died in 2010 at the ripe old age of 100; speaking of helping her Jewish friends in Nazi occupied Holland she said,

'They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn... We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need.'

One of the difficulties in teaching children about events like the holocaust is that by its nature the content is upsetting. Oxfam and other NGOs recommend to teachers the importance of including small actions and things children can do. This makes difficult content and learning more positive and pro-social. We thought about being useful and kind: how it can be difficult, not always soft and easy and sometimes requires courage. We may not be in the position of risking our lives, but we have probably all experienced when being useful and kind is more difficult. Children thought of how, when their classmates or friends are being unkind, it takes courage to challenge unkind behaviour, courage just to walk away from the group and stand with and play with the victim. One boy talked eloquently about how his sister sticks up for him when he's in bother, her love and courage clearly means a lot. By choosing the story of Meip Geis, we were able to think about the holocaust and learn in a pro-social way, finishing with a call to action for every child. Like the younger children, we finished by looking at our behaviour principles, our rule and seven responsibilities.


Were just some words used to describe orchestra and learning the recorder. Mrs Whitham has been teaching year 3 since September and at this time of year, it is usual for practise to wane somewhat as the novelty has worn off. We know the enjoyment music making has brought to so many of our children and do want to encourage as many as possible to persevere and put in the necessary graft that will makes learning the instrument joyful. Just like reading, there's no magic or trick just the more you do it the better you get.

To rekindle the year 3s and inspire the younger ones who too will learn one day, I asked six recorder players from the orchestra to stand up in assembly, share their instruments and what playing means to them. They all put it so very much better than I could. Caitlin and Mollie on descant, Henry and Michaela on treble and Chloe and Sam on the tenor were articulate and it was a joy to hear them share their enjoyment of playing together and extol the virtues of practice! They talked of their pride when we all play together. They talked about how when you play together it sounds so much better and is so much more fun than practicing at home. They also shared the importance of practising and how you feel good when you can master something you couldn't play. They talked of sharing and also showed how the different recorders sound. They also talked of how sometimes it can be a bit scary in orchestra at the beginning, but with their articulate talk and smiling faces, it was clear to everyone that for these six children, stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing the work ethic needed had brought much happiness, a sense of belonging and fulfilment.

Thank you children, you are excellent role models and young people who your peers will admire and look up to.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Friday 24th January 2020

World Book Day

A letter has gone out from our English team about World Book Day this year. Last year we didn't dress up and some children (and parents) told us they were delighted, others that they were disappointed and others were OK with us taking the decision. This year the situation will be reversed ;-) Dressing up is on and if you're groaning inside, I hope it's some comfort that you'll be laughing come 2021!

I hope folk will be confident not to spend money on a costume and feel virtuous in their contribution to climate action and social justice. It is not unknown for what appear bargain costumes, bought for children in rich countries like ours, to have been made by other children, the same age as some of ours, who get little or no opportunity to learn to read as they work long hours in sweatshops. These same costumes may have very few wearings before they make the lamentable journey to a landfill site or become tangled around some hapless sea creature's flipper. Ironic.

A letter has gone out from our English team about World Book Day this year. Last year we didn't dress up and some children (and parents) told us they were delighted, others that they were disappointed and others were OK with us taking the decision. This year the situation will be reversed ;-) Dressing up is on and if you're groaning inside, I hope it's some comfort that you'll be laughing come 2021!

I hope folk will be confident not to spend money on a costume and feel virtuous in their contribution to climate action and social justice. It is not unknown for what appear bargain costumes, bought for children in rich countries like ours, to have been made by other children, the same age as some of ours, who get little or no opportunity to learn to read as they work long hours in sweatshops. These same costumes may have very few wearings before they make the lamentable journey to a landfill site or become tangled around some hapless sea creature's flipper. Ironic.

So much more important than the fanciness or cost of a costume is the conversation at home about which character (in a story book or non-fiction text) children have read about who has inspired them and why. Some may be inspired by Harry Potter. Old curtains or tablecloths make fab cloaks (charity shops are an Aladdin's cave for WBD) and a chopstick or similar doubles up as a wand. Some children or older relatives may already have costumes that would love an airing. Most importantly can they tell you why they want to dress as someone that day? What is it about Harry, or Hermione, Ron (or Voldemort for that matter!!!) that fascinates? I remember being curious at Pippy Long-stocking's being totally unbothered in the least about being pretty and being so strong and brave (like me as a nipper, she had ginger hair). I grew up in horrendously sexist times, even some of my own younger self's thoughts shock me here, in me 50s, in 2020. but in the world of Instagram and photoshop the pressure (for boys as well as girls I'm afraid) on outward appearance is horribly unforgiving. So I am relieved to have read recently that Pippy is enjoying something of a resurgence of interest among the young.

In addition to the books swap on 5th March (Friday 6th for Lower Key Stage 2 who will be in the hallowed city of Liverpool for the Lower Key Stage 2 biannual Arts Trip on 5th), we are going to use the entrance hall (where the lost property was) as a book exchange. Children and adults can donate books that are in a reasonable condition and that won't be read again. Schoolmates and the adults who care for them can pick up and take books home. We hope that by including young adult and adult books there will be something everyone in the family can enjoy and this will also benefit children. Children who see their adults and older siblings reading at home will understand that reading is pleasurable and so are more likely to read for pleasure themselves.


Today we said our formal goodbye to Miss Milward. I took the opportunity in assembly where Miss M, who has loved it here and was in something of an emotional state, to talk to the children about leaving and moving on. In her card to me, Sarah shared a lovely quote by French poet, novelist and journalist, Anatole France:

'All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.'

And that's certainly what Sarah was feeling today. I talked to children about the forks in the road on their life's path (we sing a song in assembly, Amane Utupe, on this very subject). All of them will, with support from adults who educate and care for them I hope, make good choices and choose wise paths. But the paths they follow will be theirs alone. Our children will have choices about subjects, colleges, jobs and careers to take up or leave behind. I hope all our children will find their education, jobs and career paths are paved with the interesting and joyful. I hope they may also have the courage to leave what they like if a new path opens up and looks interesting. I hope the forks in the road and the paths children take will make them and those around them happier. I hope our children will change path because they are moving on in their career, not only on in terms of what they will earn but also in terms of what they will learn and what they can contribute. But I hope too, that when they change path, it is with a tinge of sadness - how much better to be sad at leaving something you have enjoyed, learned from and which has left fond memories than to be singing a song of unmitigated joy - free at last!

A thank you to Mrs Rutter-Brown who has ensured that with a month's notice of Miss Milward's new path (including a two week holiday) we have been able to say goodbye to Sarah and ensure provision has been maintained in school. This is not always possible and sometimes any workplace will have periods where roles are unfilled, making life more difficult for colleagues, clients and customers. Mrs Clowes kindly offered to take on Miss Milward's role in Cuckoos, Mrs Key in Hedgehogs has agreed to increase her working hours and we're delighted to welcome Mrs Redmond, a qualified teacher who children know already from her supply cover while class teachers are attending training or are unwell. All sorted!

Happy weekend, Ms S :-)

Thursday 16th January 2020

social media again

I sent a letter to parents and carers in Upper Key Stage 2 today about an incident with What'sApp. As so many of you have older children at high school, it may be of interest but as the letter is on the Communication area of the website and I won't repeat the contents here. This Blog is about the impact on children's mental health and educational achievement of overuse of digital media. Advice from health professionals and Digital Parenting is that screens should be avoided an hour before bedtime. Click the link for some illuminating advice! There is a wealth of information on Our e-safety page along with the following quote:

If a child aged is spending 3 hours or more a day on a screen they will develop mental health issues, anxiety or depression. [Professor Barry Carpenter OBE]

Peer pressure, fear of missing out, the need to be constantly in touch and be responded to on a device means that children using devices late at night and unsupervised will be affected. Schools and the NHS simply don't have the resources to support children with counselling and other care for what is, in honesty, avoidable. From what I saw of children's messaging today, some of our pupils are receiving many hundreds of messages in single 'chats'. Quite apart from any mental health issues this creates, my first thought was the unutterable and stupefying waste of their time. Children of primary age are still developing their speech and language face to face and in the real world. When I speak to children they are full of insight and intelligence, expressing difficult and thought provoking ideas. The sad fact is that however much it keeps them occupied and fascinates them, I have yet to see anything a child messages on social media that is profound. The overwhelming bulk of what children spend their precious childhood ploughing through are endless and rather dull pleas for attention like 'Hey' 'Hi - who's there?' and superficial emojis.

At the end of the day I spoke with all upper key stage 2 children. I asked what they thought I was up to at half ten last night. Their first response was sleeping (which I was not); their second was that I was reading which was bang on the nail. I was reading a very interesting book in case any parents are interested (Thinking Fast and Slow) about brains and thinking. It was a real book, not back lit and one from which I got something positive and interesting to think about. And a good night's sleep too!

When children are whiling away their young lives, pleading for the superficial attentions of others, their life chances will be diminished and less than they might otherwise be. Their attitudes and behaviours in how they choose to use of their time will make a difference to the qualifications they gain. Or not. It will make a difference to the colleges and universities they can apply for and gain a place at. Or not. It will make a difference to the jobs they might apply for or succeed in getting. Or not. The best childhoods open out children's opportunities and broaden their possibilities. But schools can't do that on their own. Education and to become an educated person is as much about what you bring to the table as what you take from it. It is a participatory activity which requires partnership not only with parents but with children themselves. Not as consumers but as participants.

On the upside anyone who having read the letter, this blog and / or information on the e-safety page and wants to bring in swinging terms and conditions for phone or device use at home feel free to blame me!

Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)

Wednesday 15th January 2020

parents' evening

Thank you to all the parents and carers and children too who came along to parents' evening. Teachers really appreciated and valued your interest and enthusiasm for your children's education. Parents who engage and work in partnership, not least by engaging in events like parents' evening, show their children that school and education are important. Feedback about parents evening has been mixed, some of you wanting more opportunities for parents' evenings and others happy with what was provided. Your feedback has been discussed more recently in leadership team meetings about home school partnership. So from next year we will offer three parents' evenings a year. We will keep the first Meet the Teacher evening; giving parent and teachers an opportunity to meet and connect really early on in the year. Around October half term will be a second parents' evening with appointments with a third, like tonight, in the Spring term. In Summer term there will be reports as usual. The format has been changed slightly this year, responding to comments from parent survey. We have taken the decision to split Infants (EYFS/KS1) and Junior (KS2) evenings in future. We hope this will both reduce people in the hall, making more space for book looks and help families with several children. I hope this is welcome news.

As for parent surveys, we will not be doing one this academic year as we had plenty of food for thought (and consequent action) from the 2019 one! When we take stakeholder views be they parents, staff or children, we listen, consider views carefully and respond.

pupil voices

Consultation should never be a paper exercise, done just to tick a box and call it 'accountability'. As children are about to find out as we prepare for some proper democracy. Select committees are something in our democracy where people from all parties work together. Children will be working on selecting policies suggested by children during the general election business. Pupils will vote on the policies they want to bring in and then begins the hard work part of democracy - delivering them! We will keep you posted!

Happy Wednesday, Ms S :-)

Friday 10th January 2020

attendance matters

Our attendance figures for Autumn term are out and, as usually is the case, there are things to celebrate as well as things we might improve. Overall attendance has been consistently good and better since the school opened. When this is the case it is important that we're not complacent and that children don't fall through the net. It doesn't help a child with attendance of 90% if the class average is 98% (other than that they won't be learning alongside children whose learning is disrupted and are needing additional adult support to keep up). This is why we share the data for the class alongside the number of children in that class with attendance that puts them at risk in their learning and achievement.

That our class and the school average is high is down to the overwhelming majority of families who take their children on holiday in the school holidays, keeping their children off school for sickness only when very unwell and/or contagious. Thank you.

As you can see from the table, attendance is overall just a little below where we were at the same point last year.

We have sent letters for pupils with attendance below 95%, the point at which attendance starts to be a concern. If you have received a letter please note that this is intended to provide you with helpful information and avoid a nasty surprise end of year with the school report.

Information about attendance has been updated on the website.

Happy weekend, Ms S :-)

Attendance 2019-20

Thursday 9th January 2020

A fond farewell to miss millward

It is with much sadness and some pride that I am informing you of Miss Milward's resignation. Sarah joined us from university with a degree in psychology and an interest in additional needs and vulnerable children. She has shone here as someone always ready to learn and progress in her understanding of children and young people and has provided outstanding service here and been an inspiration colleague to work alongside for over three years. Sarah is now keen to progress and take her career in a slightly different direction and has been successful in securing a place to train with CWAC and the NHS as a child mental health professional. She will begin a new training post at the end of this month and go on to work in this vital area of the Local Authority and NHS work. While she will be sorely missed here, in school and in Superkids, we know that children will continue to benefit from Sarah's kindness, perception and excellent support and hope to work with her again in the future in her new role. We also wish Sarah the very best for her marriage this year. 2020 will bring much change for her (and the future Mr Milward ;-). Sarah is more than equal to it and we wish a good friend and outstanding colleague the very best for a bright and successful future.

Mixed-feeling Thursday, Ms S ;-)

Wednesday 8th January 2020

A happy new decade to everyone!

It has been lovely to see children back in school happy and ready to learn. We are fortunate in school to have both September and January where we can celebrate a new year and make some resolutions for the future. We have had a think about resolutions at the end of last term and this term. The resolutions which have most impact are those that can be stuck with and become habit, just part of who we are and how we go about things. We have made just one resolution for 2020 and beyond, a small change which we hope will make a positive contribution to healthy futures and enjoying treats in moderation.

Healthy Eating - ONE small change and a reminder

Our healthy eating policy has been updated slightly with the resolution to no longer hand out bags of sweets or cake for birthdays. Children's birthdays will still be acknowledged and those who wish can have Happy Birthday sung (not all are keen). However thirty bags of sweets or cakes a year is a fair bit of sweets and cake and not quite congruent with a healthy eating policy supporting moderation. We are also mindful that a number of children are intolerant or allergic to some foods. I suspect this news will delight and upset people in equal measure and respectfully ask that, whatever your feelings, you will understand and appreciate why we are no longer distributing birthday treats for children.

My Grandad taught me that foods in themselves are rarely terrible and that 'all things in moderation' was a sensible approach to some of the more enjoyable things in life (like butter, sugar and, for him, whisky!). Consequently he remained sober, slim and able to play football with us on the street well into his seventies. Our bodies have evolved to crave things like sugar for good reason. Back when our ancestors lived as hunter gatherers, sugar was in extremely short supply, only available when fruit was ripe. Our craving meant we put in the effort to get the small amount of sweet foods we need to stay fit. Nowadays, with sugar everywhere and so cheap too, these cravings are contributing to a range of modern life conditions including rises in heart disease, cancer and obesity. We have a healthy eating policy focusing on moderation rather than a complete ban. Our policy asks that children having a packed lunch or snacks from home only bring crisps or chocolate biscuits on a Friday. High salt diets are no more healthy than high sugar ones and while not banning unhealthy food completely, it is reasonable for these foods are an end of week treat in school. Families have their own rules at home, we just respectfully ask that in school we stick to Friday. It may even help adults reinforce healthy eating habits for their children without arguments - feel free to blame me and make school the bad guy!


We have noticed that since Christmas, a few children have been bringing in I-watches and other wearable devices. Just like mobile phones, devices which play games, take photographs or videos, send or receive messages are not permitted in school and the same restrictions apply as for mobile phones. The only wearable devices we allow in school (so long as they don't provide a distraction from learning) are basic step counting fit-bits or and/or watches for telling the time. It isn't possible to tell which devices do what just by looking at them (we're less device savvy than most children) so staff will take devices they which may contravene our policy and ask children to take and keep them at home. Our e-safety page sets our reasons for this school policy and provides what I hope is some helpful advice for families. We do understand that children may be keen to bring their Christmas presents including devices into school and thank families for explaining to them why it is not permitted and helping them accept what is a reasonable request and expectation.

I really do understand that with over 300 children, school policies will not be to everyone's taste all of the time. Nevertheless, all have been developed with their benefit to children first and foremost. Therefore, as it says in our Home School Agreement, we hope and expect that our policies are supported and respected by all, unlimited.

Happy Wednesday, Ms S :-)